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One of the most insidious results of the welfare state and the feminist movement is the loss of respect for fathers, or even the belief that fathers are needed in a home. We are surrounded with ads and TV shows that show fathers as clueless idiots--essentially just another child for the mother to care for and look after. The legal system bases custody on "the best interests of the children" which has merely become a code phrase for "fathers not needed." Even my church, sad to say, while emphasizing the importance of motherhood, significantly downplays the importance of fathers.
The court also seemed oblivious to the fact that, no matter how much money the state spent, educational “adequacy” in the Abbott districts would remain a casualty of widespread family breakdown. In Newark and Camden, about 70 percent of children grow up in homes without fathers—which, research shows, frequently leads to dismal academic performance and high drop-out rates. “While many of the mothers and grandmothers were making a tremendous effort with their children, the consequences for most of the fatherless kids were devastating,” wrote Saul Cooperman, the state’s former education commissioner, in a 2002 op-ed. Assessing the likely effectiveness of the supreme court’s education mandates, Cooperman was blunt: “Until dramatically more fathers as well as mothers raise their children in our cities, we may be disappointed with the results.”Why are fathers so important? It is because fathers inculcate skills and discipline in their children that mothers, single or not, don't.
As noted sociologist David Popenoe explains,(Footnotes omitted). (See also this article). And, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers – especially biological fathers – bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.Fathers bring good, essential things to the lives of children. Children are impoverished developmentally when they are deprived of their father’s love.
The Review of General Psychology concludes:
Many studies conclude that children with highly involved fathers, in relation to children with less involved fathers, tend to be more cognitively and socially competent, less inclined toward gender stereotyping, more empathetic, and psychologically better adjusted.
Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood. Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.(Footnotes omitted).
The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child's emotional and social development. Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Rough-housing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions. Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self-control and pro-social behavior.
One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior. This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self-esteem. In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.
In short, fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children. A caseworker who understands the important contributions fathers make to their children's development and how to effectively involve fathers in the case planning process will find additional and valuable allies in the mission to create a permanent and safe environment for children.